You, as the Baptist General Association of Virginia,
have now officially kicked out a church
for ordaining a gay man as deacon
because more of you voted that way than didn’t.
And some, I’m told, steadfastly maintain,
that other stances the B.G.A.V. maintains
have no bearing whatsoever on this particular decision.
And here’s what I say in response:
if you have a hermeneutic (a way of interpreting Scripture)
that allows you to dismiss any Scriptural expectations
(no matter how archaic, silly or inane—
how tied to a particular time, place and people they appear to be),
if you have a hermeneutic that allows you to dismiss
any Scriptural expectations
then you have no business defending other expectations
solely on the basis of “that’s what the Bible says.”
You need another reason.
And, Virginia Baptists, you may have one—
a hermeneutic that justifies your actions.
I want to hear it. I want to hear you name it.
“because that’s just what the Bible says” doesn’t work.
You’ve already demonstrated your willingness
to move beyond that answer in other issues.
You’ve dismissed biblical prohibitions against women in ministry.
You deny the Bible’s perspective on slavery.
Not to mention (or to mention only in passing)
the myriad of dietary rules, prescriptions about clothing and accessorizing—
all of which—all of which actually get more press
in the holy texts than does homosexuality.
So on what grounds do you kick someone out of fellowship—
out of shared ministry—out of relationship—
on the basis of a strict adherence to a particular and rigid
interpretation of the few verses on this one issue?
Like I said, you may have a hermeneutic
(and one with integrity—a consistency) that works for you.
I’d like to know what it is.
I trace mine to my best understanding of God—
as revealed in Scripture, my upbringing in the baptist tradition
(formative years of that in Virginia),
my own experience as believer and minister.
And my best understanding of God,
most fully revealed, I believe, in the person of Jesus Christ,
is of God as love.
So everything gets measured against love.
Do not kill.
Do not steal.
Do not commit adultery.
All important—all to be obeyed,
but not simply by virtue of being in the Bible.
but rather by virtue of being consistent
with who I understand God to be as love
and who we’re to be as community in God’s image.
You don’t love someone and kill them.
You don’t love someone and steal from them.
You don’t love someone and betray them.
So there’s my hermeneutic (love)
beyond “that’s what the Bible says”
that allows me to reject certain Biblical precepts
even while justifying others—
all on the basis of love.
Doesn’t so much seem to work with
drawing a line,
taking a vote,
and then, based on a majority opinion,
saying good bye.
I hate it when families do that.
I hate the choice that reduces relationship
to an all or nothing ultimatum
that too often leads to such painful isolation
in response to such rejection.
It’s not … loving.
It’s choosing … something … over love.
I trust my daughters know and will always know
there’s nothing they can do
that would lead me to reject them
and deny them their place in the love of our family.
But love’s my hermeneutic.
It may not be yours.
If you interpret and thus understand the Bible
to unequivocally condemn homosexuality across the board—
and that is an interpretation …
though I tend, rather, to interpret those verses
like I do those (the many more, actually)
condemning the rich—
not taking those verses as a blanket condemnation—
not a universal condemnation,
but rather a condemnation of abuses within that reality—
not that all the rich are to be judged,
but those whose wealth becomes their priority
and the lens through which they see
and relate to both God and the world.
But if you do—interpret those verses that way,
and—and here I’m assuming—
assuming you do not think God rates sins
and considers some more egregious than others,
then why do you?
We are a community of sinners, not saints, no?
That is our confession, not the grounds for our rejection.
We ignore that to our peril
in a culture that already considers the church graceless.
Now there may be some who are worried
about the undoing of the fabric of society,
Well I am too.
But rather than looking at people who love each other,
I tend to look at the divorce rate in our country
and our general inability to make commitment last,
the disintegration of our ability to have real conversations anymore,
a now taken for granted, short-sighted focus on immediate gratification,
the astoundingly prevalent myth of redemptive violence
that, unconfronted, continues killing our children,
the hyper-individualism, rampant materialism
and gluttony of our society as a whole
in a deadly narcissism of body and spirit,
the widespread hunger and poverty in our own country,
the far too many young men in jail,
the lack of opportunities for too many in the land of opportunity,
the growing divide between rich and poor, between us and them,
and then the scapegoat mentality of blame that regularly mitigates confession,
and our ignorance and ignoring of what good stewardship
of God’s creation entails.
And even looking over this list of these issues
that threaten our very being as a people,
not just our integrity in being the people of God,
I’m not sure that kicking churches that ignore them
out of the conversation of relationship and ministry
is the way to work toward transformation.
I know it’s hard,
but hard should be the beginning of deeper conversation,
not the end of relationship.
in disappointment, yet still, always, with hope ….